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Latkes: Box-grater vs food processor

I always make my latkes the way my mother did, on the ol' box grater. I'd heard that using a food processor was too rough on the potatoes and the final product wasn't the same. Is this true? Also, I've always make the batter and then cooked them right off. Can you hold the batter ahead at all? (I squeeze every last bit of moisture out of the potatoes and onions before adding the matzoh meal and eggs, if it makes a difference.) What is your opinion?

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  1. I'll be using the food processor this year as my parents have been doing in recent years. They used to use the box grater and sometimes the good old standing grinder - the one you can use to make chopped liver and such. I don't think there's a difference except the processor saves your knuckles. You just have to make sure not to over-process so take out any big chunks still in there if the rest of the mixture is ready.

    As far as I know, you can't hold the batter too long - it will get dark no matter what method you use to retard the oxidation. I'm going to use flour and not matzoh meal though and yes, it is important for the texture to get out as much moisture as you can.

    Are you in the baking powder or no baking powder camp? It helps slow the oxidation and, I think, give the pancakes a nice little puff while still allowing them to remain dense.

    Also, I'll use this thread to make a stand against shredded potato in potato pancakes. I will officially state that if they are made with shredded potatoes they are not only "not" latkes but they aren't any good either.

    2 Replies
    1. re: laylag

      This year I grated the potatoes in the food processor, but then processed some of the grated product with the onions, and mixed it all together. The result was closer to what grandma used to make. Even though I agree that shredded potatoes don't make the best latkes, I'm not ready to give up the convenience of the processor when making large batches.

      1. re: CynD

        We have different Grandmothers...!
        Shredded (long shreds)..make the best most crispy latkes!
        And REALLY thin so they are truly crisp without soft "potatoey".interiors!..this is my favorite...and don't get me started on those made with mashed potatoes!!! Definitely not to my taste!...
        Viva different Bubbe's!

    2. have been using the processor with the grater attachment for a few years. Works very well but as anoher post mentioned there are times when a non-grated piece will stay on top of the blade. just make sure you chick this piece.

      1. I am not Jewish so my opinion probably won't count, but will they suffer in flavor from no blod from scraped knuckles? I am a food processor fan. I also leave the skins on (after scrubbinng well) for added flavor.

        1. box grater is the classic

          1 Reply
          1. re: marlie202

            My mother never owned a box grater. We only had a flat one! This is what she used, and I have one as well.

          2. There was a great recipe in Reform Judaism magazine a few years ago (problematic movement, excellent magazine....). It used a processer, and you processed half the potatoes to a coarse puree with the grinding disk, and the other half you shredded with the shredding disk, and they were the best latkes I have ever had.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Alan Divack

              Not so problematic in that the Reform Movement is by far the largest movement in Judaism.....!
              I went out and bought the larger size shredder disc to create shreds similar to a box grater..the shredder blade which came with the machine produced substandard shreds...I'm glad I made this purchase, the latkes (levivot) came out just like my Yiddische grandma's (minus the knuckle blood!)

              1. re: Alan Divack

                Where did you find the large shredder disc?

              2. A wise Jewish lady here in our very small town told me once that latkes could never be kosher as there was always blood in them (from the box grater)! I loved that. Not sure I believed her, but if you could have heard her say it!!

                I prefer the shred disk in the food processor. The blender... no way. Too much.

                Also, if you will shred them into a bowl of cold water.. they don't blacken so badly. If you need to shred ahead of time this works great. But you do have to work harder to get the water squeezed out. I use nice tea towels and squeeze like crazy. Just wring 'em out like old timey laundry.

                2 Replies
                1. re: k_d

                  If you grate the potatoes with the onion, they also don't blacken.

                  1. re: k_d

                    That would be the "batel b'shishim" rule. As long as the blood comprised less than 1/60th of the entire amount of the mixture and it's inclusion was not intentional then there is no harm, no foul as far as the latkes' kashrut status is concerned.

                  2. I just saw a good NYT article with relevant discussion:

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/06/din...

                    The author uses a food processor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: adtroy

                      I was dubious about that author because her recipe omitted the step of squeezing the grated potatoes to remove the water.

                    2. Well, this year I did use the food processor, and I couldn't tell the difference. The most important thing, I think, is the squeezing out of all the moisture before cooking. We go through about a half a roll of paper towels. They came out great!

                      1. I use the shredding disk first, then pulse process with the blade to get a medium consistency. Have to be careful-only process a little at a time, and try not to make it too fine. A friend recently told me she grates the potatoes with the meat-grinder attachment of her Kitchen-Aid and they came out well. Haven't tried this, though.

                        1. the best way, imo, is the old school meat grinder. i tried to use the box grater today (the side that doesn't make slices, but pulverizes the potato). However, I think i squeezed too much water out of the potatoes, because they definitely didn't turn out the way my grandma makes 'em. back to the drawing board...

                          1. Major brain argument between food processor, box grater and meat grinder in my 35 years of making latkes.

                            1 - Meat grinder. This will give you a more dense, cakey like consitency and you can form them into very perfect disks. In using the grinder you need to alternate between the potato and the onion. The potato will emit and incredible amout of juice in the process. If you like a firm on the outside, donuty texture, this works grate.

                            2 - Processor/grater - Longer and stringier output gives more uneven latkes. They get very crisp on the edges and are very irregular in shape. The tecture is much different from the grinder variety. Processor and box grater give exactly the same consitency if the right blade is use. Anyone who disagrees is just plain wrong.

                            So it depends on the consistency of the finished product. If you want one that is like the frozen variety and cakey, go grinder. More free-form, go processor, In either event enjoy.

                            1. No need to ever add flour or matzo meal to your potato mixture. You use the potato starch instead.

                              When you are draining your potatoes, do so into a bowl. After you have squeezed everything out of the potatoes into the bowl, let the liquid in the bowl settle.

                              Carefully pour out the liquid. VOILA! In the bottom of your bowl will be a hard, white cakey substance. The potato starch which will bind your latkes. Never again do you have to add any fillers. I also add a little baking powder for a lighter latke.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: personalcheffie

                                This is exactly how I do it, too. Just did it tonight, in fact (we're a little slow...). It takes at least 15 minutes for the starch to settle to the bottom after taking out the potatoes. This is a fun job for kids.

                                I think I fall into the group of crazies who thinks that they turn out better with a grater (as opposed to a food processor). The reason being that the strands that you make with the grater are more irregular than what the food processor produce, so everything seems to stick together better.

                                1. re: butterfly

                                  And I didn't even make brisket or latkes this holiday for my family. I was too busy cooking for everyone else! The hazards of being a chef sometimes.

                              2. Until this year, I would also have said the potatoes must be fried pretty much ASAP after grating (though already fried latkes reheat really well in the oven, so making it ahead is no problem...) My usual trick is to use the onions to prevent discoloration (grate some first before the potatoes, and periodically throughout). But, that only holds off the discoloration for so long...

                                However, out of necessity this year I found myself in the position of needing to figure out a way to hold grated potatoes for about an hour or so before frying... I tried a multi-prong approach combining every trick in the book, and it worked! I'm not sure which part was key, so here's the unabridged version:

                                - Used all-purpose white potatoes (not russets or yukon gold)

                                - Peeled all the potatoes first, putting them into a pot of very cold water

                                - Then, grated the potatoes directly into a second pot of cold water, with about a teaspoon of cream of tartar dissolved in it, and let sit a couple minutes

                                - It seems like at this point, the potatoes could stay for a while (the water picks up some discoloration, but the potatoes stay OK) However, they are absorbing water, which will all need to be squeezed out later.

                                - Instead, I opted to drain the grated potatoes into a colander with cheesecloth, mixing in the grated onions and squeezing out somewhat. I wrapped this ball up tightly, and left it sitting in the colander inside a bigger bowl. This wrapping seems to have kept the interaction with oxygen at a minimum.

                                - When the time came to fry, I did the final squeezing, let the liquid sit to collect the starch, and took it from there (adding egg, salt, peppper, and frying)

                                It might have been the particular potatoes, the cream of tartar, the wrapping up a ball of potatoes with some water still contained, or maybe just dumb luck, but somehow the potatoes stayed completely white through the very end of frying, about 2 hrs after grating! I know everyone swears by their own particular trick, but somebody who likes grating and frying more than I do can do the controlled experiment to figure out what the truly important part is... (America's Test Kitchen, where are you?)

                                1. Food processor for the simple reason that because the process is a lot quicker, there is less opportunity for the potatoes to darken. Anyone who thinks that a box grater is better is simply a traditionalist IMHO - nothing wrong with that, but it makes for an inferior dish in the end.

                                  I am also firmly in the baking powder camp. Take a 1/2 teaspoon (depending on amt. of mixture) of baking powder, mix with a little milk, and add to the latke mixture (I also use raw onion and caramelized onion bits in the mixture as well). I have never had the mixture go dark on me. Give it a try!

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: spades

                                    I've never had to use baking powder and I've never had my potatoes get dark. It's the starch that causes this, so all you have to do is place the grated potatoes in water, stir them around a bit, and give it about 15-20 minutes to allow the starch to sink to the bottom (and use this later for your egg-potato).

                                    After I take the potatoes out of the water, I run them through the salad spinner, and then wring them out in a cloth towel. Then they can stay out without darkening. This last time when I made them, I left them out for over an hour, because I was waiting for a guest to arrive.

                                    And I do use a grater--because I've never owned a food processor and never plan to--but I assure you that my latkes are not "inferior" (nor were my aunt's, grandmother's, great-grandmother's, etc.).

                                    1. re: butterfly

                                      I don't doubt the greatness of your latkes :). Food processor is still faster though. Pays dividends when you're serving a lot of dishes in addition to the latkes. In my experience at least.

                                      1. re: spades

                                        Ha, ha... and I don't doubt the speed and precision of your food processor! I just hate cleaning out all those parts so much and wouldn't have anywhere to put it, anyway.

                                        If I were going to make latkes for a huge crowd (which honestly, I'm far too neurotic to do), I'd probably beg, borrow, or steal a food processor for the occasion. I'm no martyr!

                                        1. re: butterfly

                                          I have the next few days off so I will experiment with your method and we'll see how it goes. I'll have to dig around for my box grater, which I'm sure was a marvel of modernity some time ago as well. I'm curious to see what effect the de-starching has in addition to the reduction in darkening.

                                          1. re: spades

                                            If you are experimenting, I would suggest throwing another method into the mix. I parboil the potatoes before shredding ( http://www.recipezaar.com/15257 ). I pretty much follow this recipe, but usually add some garlic to the mix. The key issue is boiling the potatoes--this year I made the batter at night and didn't fry until the next day, with no difference in color. I used to grate, then rinse, then squeeze to avoid the batter turning grey--this is a much easier method. This also avoids the somewhat undercooked taste I sometimes encounter with using raw potatoes.

                                            1. re: spades

                                              When you pull the potatoes out of the water, you can give them a spin in the salad spinner. I still wring them out a bit in the cloth towel after, but there's not much liquid left after a good spin.

                                              After the potatoes are out of the water, give it a few minutes for any starch that got stirred up to sink to the bottom. You'll be amazed at the weird conglomeration of dense starch that is down there when you (slowly) pour off the water. Just take it out and mix it into the egg/potato/onion mix when you are ready.

                                              Oh, and I only use olive oil to fry. Now I know that the conventional wisdom in the US about olive oil is that it is not good for frying, but let me assure you, this is patently false. I've only heard this in the US... I think it is a strange myth promulgated by the canola/corn (blech!) oil industry. Here in Spain, olive oil is THE oil for frying.

                                              And, yes, whoever invented the box grater was a genius. What a design!

                                              1. re: butterfly

                                                Thanks for the tips butterfly, and for the recipe Marion. Looking forward to trying this out.

                                                I always use olive oil for frying most things that will not be subject to high heat. For most things that require a very high frying temperature, I will use grapeseed oil which has a much higher smoking point.

                                                1. re: spades

                                                  I'll make a last plea. They really do taste better fried in olive oil. The difference heatwise between a light olive oil and grapeseed oil is not significant when it comes to the results. Spain has some of the crunchiest (most delicious) potato chips in the world--fried in olive oil. Olive oil is great for deep frying.

                                                  1. re: butterfly

                                                    OK you win! I will try the olive oil with them as well.

                                                    1. re: spades

                                                      Harumph!!!

                                                      Latkes should be fried in Schmaltz...good old chicken fat...!!! (said in a "downheim" Yiddish accent!)
                                                      You're making "Potato Pancakes' (said in a haughty-effete British Accent!!)
                                                      Olive/grapeseed oil...OY!

                                                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                        Mmm... schmaltz--that's how we make our matzo balls, but latkes never. It's about the oil, the symbolism. Those wicks weren't burning in schmaltz, were they? Oy! And calling my latkes potato pancakes in a haughty British accent... Some chutzpah have you!!

                                                        (Downheim, I love that.)

                                                        1. re: butterfly

                                                          I just made matzo balls and I always use schmaltz. I had some from previous rendered fat, and then I save the skimmed soup fat. The trick to matzo balls? A little ground ginger in the mix.

                                                          1. re: butterfly

                                                            Don't knock frying in schmaltz until you have tried it!! Schmaltz is the Jewish version (Grandma cover your ears!) of Lard.....so VERY tasty...in my youth, dear Bubbe fried eggs or matzo brie in Schmaltz...it adds major flavor and aroma to what is definitely a flavor-deprived "cuisine"...Potato....boring....potato and onion...better...potato and onion fried in fragrant chicken fat.....ethereal (all right I'm pushing it, but definitely better than just oil....)
                                                            Thank YOU for the image of Yiddish sounding Hebrew priests of "The Most High" preparing schmaltz to use in the Great Menorah of the Temple... (bickering all the while about who would get the gribenes!)...and then the Miracle! the Schmaltz which was only going to last one day lasted EIGHT!!! (whats this??? Is that a little Jewish Grandma snickering behind the Menorah... frying pan at her side??!! Could it be???) MAYBE!!?

                                                            1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                              I'm going to have rendered duck fat from roasting a duck and intend to fry my latkes. I don't care if it isn't truly authentic. Duck fat rules!!

                                      2. We used the food processor but the real diference this year was that we drained the mixture in a collander before frying it up. Our latkas came our great (or should I say grate.)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: SIMIHOUND

                                          I squeeze my potato/onion in cheesecloth. It gets the job done very well.

                                        2. You have grate the potatoes on a box grater, using the smallest shredding holes. Using a food processor will produce the wrong texture. I tried putting in some rice wine vinegar while I shredded to keep the potatoes from turning dark, and then squeezed out the liquid before adding the eggs, etc. If anything, it improved the flavor. I've never used matzoh meal, just ordinary flour (not being Jewish) and also, not being Jewish, I fry them in bacon fat. Back to the box grater - we used to joke that a little blood from the knuckles (from using the grater) was the essential ingredient without which your potato pancakes just wouldn't taste right.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Miss Nancy

                                            I make an easier version of my grandma's latkes and my family LOVES them. Put one egg into food process and then add potatoes --5-and onions--2--using the chop blade (grandma NEVER had the long shredded pieces ). Need to work quickly as potatoes will turn fast. Put in a bowl and add matzo meal (NEVER flour or potato starch), until you get the right consistency) salt and pepper (no measurements for that.). The key is to make sure the latkes are fried in very HOT oil (it takes alot of oil). Tastes best immediately after frying. Once they sit, they get soggy. These are authentic old world Jewish latkes. Enjoy!

                                            1. re: be1ch69

                                              Peanut Oil makes for the tastiest fried Latkes!

                                          2. The whole question seems to rest on those who were initiated on authentic or modernised latkes. Authentic involves using the fine ground mush. Modern is the shred or strips. If I wanted them, I'd just go to McDonalds for my quick fix. No seriously, I have had the shreded and they do taste good and if thats what you like go for it. BUT if you want authentic then the fine ground is it. And the easiest way I have found which provides a great product is to use the parmesan blade in your big K/A FP'or. I don't know which other maker has them but that is what I use. It works just as well as the infamous knuckle grinder and a whole lot faster and less painful.. And all the rest is pretty much to taste, but they aren't crackling crispy and weren't meant to be. But they taste great, hot, cold, reheated, w or w/o coatings. And leftovers. Yeah right. Once you get the right mix down you certainly won't have to worry about that. Just get out the water, use flour,leftover starch or matzo, whatever your wrinkle. onion to taste a little salt and pepper a pinch of baking powder if you must and the oil of your choice.Some egg. One big point is the tea towel and getting out that water. Then you have the basis and where you go from there is up to your taste buds. But the cheese grater wheel is the ticket. Enjoy.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: arnoldk

                                              WOW.......seems like somebodys paying attention. My Amazon email just lit up like a Xmas Tree. I'm glad I posted my little find. Now to be more specific which I was not in the last post, I went to all of the most common places to find the blade and checked ebay and finally Amazon and found the latter to be the best deal. And after looking now it is even cheaper than when I purchased. It is $!6 and was $21. What it is listed as in Amazon is as follows. "KitchenAid 9 and 12-Cup Food Processor Parmesan/Ice Grating Disc" I hope many of you who have suffered the killer "knuckle duster" will look into this method if you have a K/A FP. I think some of the other mfrs. have them too, but I don't know as I own a K/A. And maybe some old timers, aka masochists beleive it isn't as good w/o the blood and the excised skin. well be my guest and continue. And as to cleaning the parts to the FP, I'd gladly do that rather than those sore knuckle for a week or more. And like I said above experiment with online recipes and amounts and types and see what you like. You just might begin your own traditional "Grandma Bubba Recipe" Just try small batches till it's perfected. Happy Holidays and Latkes. Enjoy.